Solve THEMELESS 14, read on below… you know the drill by now.
Constructor: Jacob Zantinge
Ben: Tale of two puzzles for me. Top half was butter, and had great stuff like the Best Clue Ever on EDIBLE UNDERWEAR (14A: Junk food?), plus MEGAN Fox’s GOLDEN RASPBERRY nomination, PERISCOPE (inexplicably not clued to the app) and ASTERIX (40A: Gallic character of comix who takes a performance enhancing substance to fight against the Romans).
Bottom half has some good stuff, but man, the Scrabble-fucking. XOXOX crossing XII and DIOXIDE (the clue 42D: Part of what’s causing global warming? can’t disguise that it’s a 7-letter partial), with ZZZ next door — nope, sorry. Just killed my interest in the puzzle. I ran into a brick wall and barely cared when I finally cracked the two long answers.
To be fair, it’s relatively clean given that the constructor has decided to put 5 Z’s into a 3×2 space — but why would you do that?
Ambitious grid design — nice and open. I particularly like the long stuff that stems out from the middle.
Don’t love the weird cross-referencing going on with 18A, 20A, 23A and 27A. Like the high-value Scrabble letters, it took me right out of the puzzle — both strike me as flash at the expense of solver experience, although obviously I can only speak for myself.
Overall it’s still pretty good, but I was disappointed by the end of the solve, and it kind of soured me on the puzzle.